Botanist / Palace of Worms - The Hanging Gardens of Hell / Ode to Joy (split)
Experimental Black Metal
6 songs (36:17)
Release year: 2013
Bandcamp, Flenser
Reviewed by Goat

So, this is an odd one. The bands represented here play an unusual and distinct take on black metal, in Botanist's case stretching the concept to its limit at times. Each is a one-man-band, too, interestingly, suggesting the person in particular (Palace of Worms' Balan and Botanist's, erm, The Botanist) are in full control of their vision, and fully able to implement it. Despite their different approaches, the two bands are complimentary to each other's style, melodic and progressive yet in very different ways...

Botanist kick off the split, and if the plant-obsessed songs weren't weird enough, the fact that the guitars and bass are replaced by a hammered dulcimer would be. This is a very different sort of environmental black metal, the horticultural interest oddly similar to Carcass' medical obsession in terms of lyrics and interest in long words. What's more, it strangely works as far as the sound itself, which is very rhythmic and melodic as you'd expect, The Botanist obviously a skilled drummer from the dynamic and varied drumming, but the dulcimer providing almost waves of sound in a very post-metal sort of way. Starting with Tillandsia, the songs are fast enough to be black metal, and the dulcimer notes make for an eerie atmosphere, but this very clearly ain't the black metal that burnt churches down. Senecio takes a slightly more rhythmic direction, focusing a little more on the drums and keeping the dulcimer as a vibrating background hum with some ghostly vocals, and Transdescantia Pallida initially uses it almost as a bell, its single-tone tolls ringing out over a captivating drumbeat, before making it almost a chiming wall of noise.

Palace of Worms seems much more traditionally black metal, using guitars and drums and so on, but there is some subtle experimentation going on. Opener Ode to Joy (Hurrah, the End Draws Nigh) is all gloomy guitar tone with synth plinks at first, opening up into a more typical depressive black metal dirge, but the off-kilter guitar shrieks and odd structure show that all is not normal. This is only built on in the following King Leech, which begins with a slow, solemn yet melodic guitar riff, almost an organ note rather than and a riff, and that could be mistaken for something from Botanist at first, before slowly becoming more recognisable, turning almost rocking in a doomy way at one point. Closer Twilight of the Idols (for R.B.) is probably the most traditional black metal piece present, scurrying sound effects giving it a weirdly effective atmosphere, and closing the split well.

Splits always make effective introductions to new bands, and this is no exception. Available as multiple sorts of vinyl and electronically from the Bandcamp link above, those with an interest in the weird fringes of black metal should give this a go for Botanist, while more traditionally-minded black metal folk will find Palace of Worms' sound promising. I'm certainly going to keep an eye on both, and explore their back catalogue...

Killing Songs :
Tillandsia, King Leech
Goat quoted no quote
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